Recreational running injuries – from ‘niggle’ to ‘career-ending’
New Injury Continuum from Insight at DCU first to help runners and clinicians manage injury across the spectrum
20th October 2023, Ireland: Researchers at the Insight SFI Research Centre for Data Analytics and the DCU School of Health and Human Performance have created a first-of-its-kind Running Injury Continuum to support recreational runners, coaches and clinicians in managing and preventing injury.
Running is one of the most popular forms of exercise worldwide; 25,000 people will take part in next week’s Dublin Marathon. Over 50% of recreational runners become injured every year.
Runners’ perceptions of injuries, especially lower level injuries, can provide important information for more serious injury prevention. However, there has been little research on this topic to date.
Thirty one adult recreational runners were recruited from local running clubs for the study. Participants described the process of injury development on a nine-level continuum, with each level increasing in severity of injury from ‘discomfort’, ‘niggle’ or ‘twinge’ all the way to ‘long term’ and ‘career-ending’. In each case the participants provided information on how each level of injury affected their running, their daily activity and their psychological wellbeing.
The work is published in the October edition of PLOS One.
Lead researcher Aisling Lacey, Insight SFI Research Centre for Data Analytics, explained the value of the study’s findings. ‘It is likely that ignoring these elements of injury is the underlying reason why we know as little as we do about the causes of injury. Of all the sports, running should be the easiest to identify the causes of injury. It is a highly repetitive action yet there is a lack of consistent findings across multiple large-scale studies. Clearly a key reason is that the consensus definition of injury ignores lower-level injuries which can themselves go on to become more significant injuries or cause significant injuries elsewhere because of the runner altering their technique, consciously or sub-consciously’.
Coaches and clinicians must recognise the role that lower-level injuries play in the development of more significant, time-loss injuries and treat them accordingly, says Insight Principal Investigator Professor Kieran Moran. ‘They should consider these ‘niggles’ in terms of injury prevention and management and educate runners on recognising these complaints as ‘actual injuries’.
‘The Running Injury Continuum represents the progressive, fluctuating and cyclic process that many runners go through. Runners understand how discomfort, niggles and twinges possibly contribute to the development of significant injuries, and identifying these lower-level injuries is possibly the missing link to understanding their causes. Although runners may think that lower level injuries can be ignored, we identified that they are in fact ‘injuries’ and likely contribute to more significant time-loss injuries, meaning they must be dealt with correctly.
‘This research holds significant importance for runners, researchers, clinicians and coaches.’
Research Project Details
Lacey, A., Whyte, E., O’Keeffe, S., O’Connor, S., Burke, A., & Moran, K. (2023). The Running Injury Continuum: A qualitative examination of recreational runners’ description and management of injury. Plos one, 18(10), e0292369. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0292369
Insight SFI Research Centre for Data Analytics
The Insight SFI Research Centre for Data Analytics is one of Europe’s largest data analytics research organisations, with over 450 researchers, more than 220 industry partners and €150+ million in funding. Its research spans Fundamentals of Data Science, Sensing and Actuation, Scaling Algorithms, Model Building, Multi-Modal Analysis, Data Engineering and Governance, Decision Making and Trustworthy AI.
Insight is made up of four host institutions at DCU, University of Galway, UCC and UCD. Insight’s partner sites are Maynooth University, Tyndall, TCD and UL. www.insight-centre.org